Folk and expert theories of emotion and the disappearance of psychology

Zoltan Kovecses



Emotion theories are of two kinds: folk and expert theories. Folk theories of emotion can be reconstructed, for instance, on the basis of language used about the emotions. In this sense, folk theories of emotion are reconstructions of lay views that can be represented by folk, or cultural, models. Expert theories, on the other hand, are scientific constructions by experts, who describe (on the basis of some evidence available to them) what they take emotions to be. As I have shown in several publications (e.g., Kovecses, 1986, 1990), many of our folk theories of emotion are based on certain biological-physiological processes. What this means is that the way we conceptualize the emotions is to some extent constrained by bodily processes. T’he general version of this claim in cognitive linguistics is that abstract concepts are in part based on concrete functions and processes of the human body and its interaction with other objects in physical and cultural space (Johnson, 1987). What is the relationship between folk theories and expert theories of emotion? Indeed, we can ask whether the people who create our expert theories of emotion can free themselves from the folk theories that they obviously share with other members of their culture (in their “role” as lay people). I will argue that, at least in many cases, expert theories can be considered to be extensions of folk theories.


folk theories; expert theories; emotions; psychology; love; cognitive models

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